I’ve often thought that life would be better if we all spoke the same language. But that’s probably a pipe dream, for there will always be different tongues, interpretations and accents. It would probably be boring otherwise. The other day, I was talking with a friend who moved to Alexandria from Nova Scotia. The subject of pecan pies came up. She pronounced it, “pea-can”. I cringed and asked, “Don’t you mean ‘puh-cons’?” I told her that, where I come from, a “pea-can” is not something that falls from trees, but rather a “urological appliance.” She said she understood, but that it was still “pea-can” to her.
The other day, we were in the car when Joann said, “Look at that pink sky.” I looked quickly and said, “I don’t see a pig sty.” She repeated it several times before I could determine what she said. It’s difficult sometimes even when you speak the same language! Communication is so important in any relationship. And the way we say things can make such a huge difference.
What if Adam Dewey had said, “It is my command that we relegate the torpedoes to perdition; let us proceed at maximum speed”? Or what if Patrick Henry had said, “It is my expressed desire to receive not more than one of the following: complete freedom or loss of my life, to be determined at a later date,” rather than, “Give me liberty or give me death”?
When it comes to Christianity and faith in God, meanings have to be interpreted. Some folks interpret the Old Testament prophecy as if it were written for the 21st century. The words of the Bible were written for that day and time. We have to take what is relevant and let the rest go. The Bible is probably the most misunderstood book in existence. A man called me the other day and said he was reading I and II Samuel, and couldn’t understand why God condoned the killing of so many people. I tried to explain that this is history, and history is full of violence and bloodshed. You can take things out of context in scripture and justify any behavior you want. I think the same thing is true with the sacred text of Islam, the Koran. Some of it sounds positive and life-giving, while other parts reflect extreme fanaticism. It’s called “selective believing”. History is full of people who select war over anything that is positive. I don’t believe God condones murder.
The Bible, for me, is the record of what God has done and is doing in history to reconcile all humankind to Himself. All of the sixty-six books tell of this drama. When all the efforts of God to redeem people don’t work, God makes a dramatic move when the Word was made flesh. Jesus came to show us how to live and how to treat each other. “The Word became flesh and dwells among us,” (John 1:14). Jesus came to interpret God as a loving father who forgives us and redeems us. Jesus came that we may have life and have it more abundantly. This is the fuller meaning of Christmas.
I have a friend who is always saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” I don’t believe this because that would mean that everything is predetermined. On the other hand, I believe God can take what happens and bring something reasonable and meaningful out of it. I don’t believe it is God’s Will that life be destroyed. There is nothing “holy” about any war.
Moreover, Christianity must be translated and interpreted into the stuff of human life if it is to make sense in a world like ours. I have to get beyond my own “stuff” to believe in a loving God. We have to get beyond tragedies and all kind of evil to believe in a God who cares. I believe the reason many turn away from Christianity is because they expect it to be some kind of insurance policy against all the “bad stuff” in the world. Some think that God should be some kind of nursemaid. They ask, “If God cares, why do the innocent suffer? Has God lost control of the world?” I don’t think so.
On a more personal basis, we have to interpret our own lives and determine how we fit into the scheme of things. Will we see ourselves as losers or winners? I was counseling in a psychiatric hospital and a man in his fifties told me the sad story of his life. He said his father told him many times that he would never amount to anything, and he believed it. He fulfilled his father’s prophecy until he was in his fifties, and then he made some drastic changes for the better.
Interpretations become the key to understanding the world around us as well as to understanding the Bible in terms of what’s happening today. We have to read, study and use the common sense that God gave us to make sense of things that seem so senseless. Your life and mine are interpretations of something good or bad. We are either on God’s Way or in God’s way. Which is it for you?
I will close with this prayer:
Please help us to see Christmas through the eyes of faith. Help us to see Jesus, not merely as an infant in a manger, but one who came to be our Savior by interpreting life as good. Give us a will to follow His Way, a mind to learn His Truth and a Heart to receive His life.